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Sāmoa’s hidden past: LiDAR confirms inland settlement and suggests larger populations in pre-contact Sāmoa

Gregory Jackmond, Dionne Fonoti, Matiu Matavai Tautunu

JPS, Vol 127, No 1 pg (73-90)


This communication presents results from LiDAR-guided field research in 2017 which revealed the existence of continuous indigenous population zones stretching from the coast to three or more kilometres inland across the district of Palauli East, Savai‘i. The findings amplify archaeological evidence of a small number of inland settlements (recorded in the 1970s and earlier) on the main islands of ‘Upolu and Savai‘i as well as recent studies of the small islands of the Manu‘a group and Manono. They build the case that in centuries prior to the 19th century inland settlement was far more extensive and villages were not, as had been widely assumed, mainly located on the coast. The findings also support contentions that Sāmoa may have had a much larger population in previous centuries than that indicated by missionary estimates of the mid-19th century.


Sāmoa, settlement pattern archaeology, pre-contact populations, LiDAR imaging, Polynesia

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